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Articles on Ancient humans

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Today the shoreline of Lake Malawi is open, not forested the way it was before ancient humans started modifying the landscape. Jessica Thompson

Early humans used fire to permanently change the landscape tens of thousands of years ago in Stone Age Africa

Combining evidence from archaeology, geochronology and paleoenvironmental science, researchers identified how ancient humans by Lake Malawi were the first to substantially modify their environment.
This skull, found in France, was among the first fossils to be recognized as belonging to our own species. DEA /G. Cigolini via Getty Images

How did humans evolve, and will we evolve more?

Our biggest evolutionary advantages are an ability to walk on two legs and our big brains.
A: Border Cave’s 200,000 year old fossilised grass fragments. B: The profile section of desiccated grass bedding dating to around 43,000 years ago. Both images copyright Lyn Wadley

Grass on ash: uncovering 200,000 year old beds from South Africa

Before 200,000 years ago, close to the origin of our species, people preferred the use of broad-leaved grasses to build their beds and resting areas using ash layers underneath.
The bone arrowhead (insert) found at Klasies River main site has much to teach us. Justin Bradfield and Sarah Wurz

What a bone arrowhead from South Africa reveals about ancient human cognition

The artefact comes from deposits dated to more than 60,000 years ago. It closely resembles thousands of bone arrowheads used by the indigenous San hunter-gatherers from the 18th to the 20th centuries.
The original Dikika child skull (left), a 3D model produced with synchrotron scanning (middle), and a model corrected for distortion during fossilisation (right). Gunz et al. (2020) / Science Advances.

Baby steps: this ancient skull is helping us trace the path that led to modern childhood

Our findings reveal the slowing down of brain development in our ape-like ancestors began more than three million years ago.
Reptile, avian and mammal tracks and Middle Stone Age artefacts on a large track bearing surface which has since been buried by a landslide. Images modified from Helm, et al. 2020. South African Journal of Science, 116

Fossil track sites tell the story of ancient crocodiles in southern Africa

While crocodylian fossil swim traces have been described from other continents, to the best of our knowledge the examples we describe are the first such reptilian swim traces from Africa.
Neanderthal hunting grounds in southern Siberia — the Charysh River valley, with Chagyrskaya Cave in the centre of the photo. Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Stone tools reveal epic trek of nomadic Neanderthals

Neanderthals living in a cave in southern Siberia made distinctive stone tools that can be traced to their ancestral homeland in eastern Europe — an intercontinental journey of more than 3,000 km.
A scene from the Books of the Dead (based at the Egyptian Museum) shows the ibis-headed god Thoth recording the result of “the final judgement”. Wasef et al./PLOS ONE

Holy bin chickens: ancient Egyptians tamed wild ibis for sacrifice

An estimated 1.75 million ibises were deposited at a single location in ancient Egypt. But the birds disappeared entirely from the region around 1850, and no one knows why.
One of the Klasies River spinning discs and the replica built for the recording studio. Kumbani et al (2019), Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports

How our African ancestors made sound in the Stone Age

Working with bone artefacts from archaeological sites in South Africa's southern Cape region, we've been able to show that some implements might have been used for sound production in the past.

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